[Illustration: HOUSE OF M. THIERS, PLACE SAINT-GEORGES.]
At ten o’clock in the evening I was walking up the Rue Notre-Dame-de-Lorette. In these times the streets are quite deserted at that hour. Looking on in front I saw that the Place Saint-Georges was lighted up by long tongues of flame, that the wind blew hither and thither. I hastened on, and was soon standing in front of M. Thiers’ house. At the open gate stood a sentinel; a large fire had been lighted in the court by the National Guards; not that the night was cold, they seemed to have lighted it merely for the pleasure of burning furniture and pictures, that had been left behind by the Communal waggoners. They had already begun to pull down the right side of the house; a pickaxe was leaning against a loosened stone; the roof had fallen in, and a rafter was sticking out of one of the windows. The fire rose higher and higher; would it not be better that the flames should reach the house and consume it in an hour or two, than to see it being gradually pulled down, stone by stone, for many days to come? In the court I perceived several trucks full of books and linen. A National Guard picked up a small picture that was lying near the gate; I bent forward and saw that it was a painting of a satyr playing on a flute. How sad and cruel all this seemed! The men lounging about looked demoniacal in the red light of the fire. I turned away, thinking not of the political man, but of the house where he had worked, where he had thought, of the books that no longer stood on the shelves, of the favourite chair that had been burnt on the very hearth by which he had sat so long; I thought of all the dumb witnesses of a long life destroyed, dispersed, lost, of the relatives, and friends whose traces had disappeared from the rooms empty to-day, in ruins to-morrow; I thought of all this, and of all the links that would be broken by a dispersion, and I trembled at the idea that some day—in these times anything seems possible—men may break open the doors of my modest habitation, knock about the furniture of which I have grown fond, destroy my books which have so long been the companions of my studies, tear the pictures from my walls, and burn the verses that I love for the sake of the trouble they have given me to make,—kill, in a word, all that renders life agreeable to me, more cruelly than if four Federals were to take me off and shoot me at the corner of a street. But I am not a political man. I belong to no party—who would think of doing me any injury? I am perfectly harmless, with my lovesick metaphor. Ah I how egotistical one is! It was of my own home that I thought while I stood in front of the ruin in the Place Saint-Georges. I confess that I was particularly touched by the misfortunes of that house, because it awakened in me the fear of my own, misfortune, most improbable, and most diminutive, it is true, in comparison with that.